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Withdraw tariffs on US goods: Trump ahead of Modi meeting 

New Delhi, June 27

On the eve of the high-stakes G20 summit, US President Donald Trump today lashed out at China as well as allies India, Japan and Germany.  India’s “very high” tariffs on US goods are “unacceptable” and must be withdrawn, he demanded, ahead of his crucial meeting with PM Narendra Modi on Friday on the sidelines of the summit. The meeting comes after the India visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The US President’s early morning tweet from Japan and  Pompeo’s parting shot on freedom of religion in Delhi did not elicit a response from India, which is keen on maintaining its stance of discussing all issues across the table keeping the bigger picture in mind. The US has presented India a stark choice of take it or leave it on six subjects – trade (tariffs), technology (Huawei), energy (Iran), defence equipment (Russia), data localisation and e-commerce and Indo-Pacific.   The impression given after the first major interaction between Pompeo and the Indian leadership here on Wednesday was that both sides were satisfied with transmitting their views to each other. 

But this impression was disrupted soon after Pompeo’s speech, after he had met PM Modi, NSA Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, indicating a hard climb ahead in restoring equanimity in bilateral ties. 

India will hedge its options by appearing in the company of China and Russia on at least three occasions in Osaka. A meeting of BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) will build on the consensus achieved at a 53-country meeting convened by India here last March to demand “no artificial, out-of-WTO sanctions on free flow of trade.’’ This build-up of international pressure is in line with Indian G-20 Sherpa Suresh Prabhu’s observation that India is one of the most open economies and, in fact, deserves reciprocal treatment from other countries. This will be followed by a RIC summit between PM Modi, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping to be possibly followed by a bilateral with Xi. India will then underline its usefulness to both global camps by figuring with the opposite grouping. PM Modi has already met Japanese PM Shinzo Abe and will hold a bilateral with Trump and a trilateral with Trump and Abe.  

India’s gameplan, which has already caused grief to China in its trade talks with the US, is to nudge Washington towards a dialogue between the two Commerce Ministries. 

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